Local MP Damien Kurek is concerned the recent federal budget shows a troubling tendency to dip extensively into the debt pool.
“When it comes to the fiscal situation in our country, there is a troubling ambiguity as to where this truly leaves Canadians at,” he said. “If your only metric for success is spending money, then you are really missing the point. How effective have these programs been?
“Have they been under-used, or have they ended up moving the economy in the direction that is required?
“A lot of those questions remain after what we had hoped would be a document that would provide some clarity. It appears the plan for financing Canada’s short, medium and long-term debt is to simply make sure they spend as little as possible on massive amounts of debt,” he added, referring to low interest rates that make borrowing that much more alluring.
“It’s like taking a whole bunch of debt from your credit card and moving it to a line of credit. But you are still spending on that credit card. I think that troubling trend has been confirmed in this and I would note that the Prime Minister even wrote in the finance minister’s mandate letter that she was to avoid creating permanent new spending.
“Well, in this budget we see a number of programs that are online to be massive and long-term spending items for the government. So there is obviously a disconnect,” he said.
“Canadians deserve certainty, and to know that money is being spent in a way that respects their dollars and respects future generations that have to pay back finance dollars, too.”
Kurek noted that the government also recycled old promises they have failed to deliver on in the past, and that they also neglected to assist the oil and gas sector.
“For a long-awaited budget, there’s a lack of hope and optimism for what will be the future of our country.”
And further to the massive spending was a doubling down on government program expansion, even giving themselves a hundred-billion-dollar slush fund for ‘green projects’ with limited accountability, said Kurek.
“It’s the long-term, institutional growth that has questionable benefits for Canadians.”
The level of debt could suddenly worsen significantly as well should interest rates go up or there be another economic crisis, he said.
“When you have to depend on interest rates to survive, whether that’s as a household or a nation, no matter how you slice it, that is not a good position to be in,” he said.
“I would suggest that all Canadians are worse off, and all Canadians are also worse off when Ottawa tells provinces how they should or shouldn’t operate. I think that double whammy will have massive impacts in our country’s future. The basis of our federation was based on respecting different jurisdictions which have different ideas and different priorities.
“There are national responsibilities and there are regional or provincial areas of responsibility. It is absolutely key to respect those things,” he said.
Kurek added that there is an attitude that suggests there simply aren’t any consequences to borrowing money.
“It’s patently false, and at some point we will have to address the fiscal position. If we don’t, we will be in a place where there are very, very difficult decisions that will have to be made.”
Meanwhile, according to the Alberta Chambers of Commerce President and CEO Ken Kobly, “We’ve been waiting two years, and the biggest surprise is the scale of projected deficit and debt — it’s quite alarming to say the least.”
He noted that continued support for business as Canadians face a potential third wave of variant strains and the investment in training and retraining are positives.
“Our members also support expanding broadband and refinancing the national trade corridors fund as much of our economy is rural and depends on moving goods and services,” he said.
“We were somewhat surprised there was no commitment to overhaul the tax system given the emphasis on the digital economy, an underutilized opportunity for many small businesses. Without tax modernization, our entire economy will remain tethered to the past by a clunky, costly code that was last reviewed in earnest before touch tone phones were invented,” said Kobly.
“With over 750 pages, this budget is enormous in more ways than spending. What we know at this point of our review is there appears to be something in there for almost everybody, unless you value thrift and savings. In that case you’re out of luck.”